Music of the natural order was not wanting, and every night the pioneers were lulled to rest by the screeching of panthers and the howling of wolves. When the dogs ventured too far out from the cabins at night, they would be driven back by the wolves chasing them up to the very cabin doors. Trapping wolves became a very profitable business after the State began to pay a bounty for wolf scalps.

All the streams of water also abounded in fish, and a good supply of these could be procured by the expense of a little time and labor. Those who years ago improved the fishing advantages of the country never tire telling of the dainty meals which the streams afforded.

Sometimes large parties would get together, and, having been provided with cooking utensils and facilities for camping out, would go off some distance and spend weeks together. No danger then of being ordered off a man’s premises or arrested for trespass. One of the peculiar circumstances that surrounded the early life of the pioneers was a strange loneliness. The solitude seemed almost to oppress them. Months would pass during which they would scarcely see a human face outside their own families.

On occasions of special interest, such as election, holiday  celebrations, or camp-meetings, it was nothing unusual for a few settlers who lived in the immediate neighborhood of the meeting to entertain scores of those who had come from a distance. Rough and rude though the surroundings may have been, the pioneers were none the less honest, sincere, hospitable and kind in their relations. It is true, as a rule, and of universal application, that there is a greater degree of real humanity among the pioneers of any country than there is when the country becomes old and rich. If there is an absence of refinement, that absence is more than  compensated in the presence of generous hearts and truthful lives. They are bold, industrious and enterprising. Generally speaking, they are earnest thinkers, and possessed of a diversified fund of useful, practical information. As a rule they do not arrive at a conclusion by means of a course of rational reasoning, but, nevertheless, have a queer way at getting at the facts. They hate cowards and shams of every kind, and above all things, falsehoods and deception, and cultivate an integrity which seldom permits them to prostitute themselves to a narrow policy of imposture. Such were the characteristics of the men and women who pioneered the way to the country of the Sacs and Foxes. A few of them yet remain, and although some of their descendants are among the wealthy and most  substantial of the people of the county, they have not forgotten their old time hospitality and free and easy ways. In contrasting the present social affairs with pioneer times, one has well said:-Then, if a house was to be raised, every man ‘ turned out,’ and often the women, too, and while the men piled up the logs that fashioned the primitive dwelling-place, the women prepared the dinner. Sometimes it was cooked by big log fires near the site where the cabin was building; in other cases it was prepared at the nearest cabin, and at the proper hour was carried in to where the men were at work. If one man in the neighborhood killed a beef, a pig or a deer, every other family in the neighborhood was sure to receive a piece. We were all on an equality. Aristocratic feelings were unknown, and would not have been tolerated. What one had we all had, and that was the happiest period of my life. But to-day, if you lean against a neighbor’s shade tree he will charge you for it. If you are poor and fall sick, you may lie and suffer almost unnoticed and unattended, and probably go to the poor-house; and just as like as not the man who would report you to the authorities as a subject of county care would charge the county for making the report.”

Of the old settlers, some are still living in the county in the enjoyment of the fortunes they founded in early times, “ having reaped an hundredfold.” Nearly all, however, have passed away. A few of them have gone to the far West, and are still playing the part of pioneers. But wherever they may be, whatever fate may betide them, it is but truth to say that they were excellent men as a class, and have left a deep and enduring impression upon the county and the ,State. They builded better than they knew.” They were, of course, men of activity and energy, or they would never have decided to face the trials of pioneer life. The great majority of them were poor, but the lessons taught them in the early days were of such a character that few of them have remained so. They made their mistakes in business pursuits like other men. Scarcely one of them but allowed golden opportunities, for pecuniary profit, at least, to pass by unheeded. What now are some of the choicest farms in Monroe county were not taken up by the pioneers, who preferred land of very much less value. They have seen many of their prophecies fulfilled, and others come to naught. Whether they have attained the success they desired, their own hearts can tell. To one looking over the situation then, from the standpoint now, it certainly does not seem very cheering, and yet, from the testimony of some old pioneers, it was a most enjoyable time, and we of the present live in degenerate days.

At that time it certainly would have been much more difficult for those old settlers to understand how it could be possible that sixty-  five years hence the citizens of the present age of the county’s progress would be complaining of hard times and destitution, and that they themselves, perhaps, would be among that number, than it is now for us to appreciate how they could feel so cheerful and contented with their meager means and humble lot of hardships and deprivations during those early pioneer days. The secret was, doubtless, that they lived within their means, however limited, not coveting more of luxury and comfort than their income would afford, and the natural result was prosperity and contentment, with always room for one more stranger at the fireside, and a cordial welcome to a place at their table for even the most hungry guest. Humanity, with all its ills, is, nevertheless, fortunately characterized with remarkable flexibility, which enables it to accommodate itself to circumstances. After all, the secret of happiness lies in one’s ability to accommodate himself to his surroundings. It is sometimes remarked that there were no places for public entertainment till later years. The truth is, there were many such places; in fact, every cabin was a place of entertainment, and these hotels were sometimes crowded to their utmost capacity. On such occasions, when bedtime came, the first family would take the back part of the cabin, and so continue filling up by families until the limit was reached. The young men slept in the wagon outside. In the morning, those nearest the door arose first and went outside to dress. Meals were served on the end of a wagon and consisted of corn bread, buttermilk, and fat pork, and occasionally coffee, to take away the morning chill. On Sundays, for a change, they had bread made of wheat “tramped out” on the ground by horses, cleaned with a sheet, and pounded by hand. This was the best the most fastidious could obtain, and this only one day in seven. Not a moment of time was lost. It was necessary that they should raise enough sod corn to take them through the coming winter, and also get as much breaking done as possible. They brought with them enough corn to give the horses an occasional feed, in order to keep them able for hard work, but in the main they had to live on prairie grass. The cattle got nothing else than grass.


Another source of profitable recreation among the old settlers was that of hunting bees. The forests along the water-courses were especially prolific of bee trees. They were found in great numbers on the Salt rivers and their confluents, and, in fact, on all the important streams in the county. Many of the early settlers, during the late summer, would go into camp for days at a time, for the purpose of hunting and securing the honey of the wild bees, which was not only extremely rich and found in great abundance, but always commanded a good price in the home market.

The Indians have ever regarded the honey bee as the forerunner of the white man, while it is a conceded fact that the quail always follows the footprints of civilization. The following passage is found in the “Report of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, in the year 1842, by Captain John C. Fremont,” page 69:

“ Here on the summit, where the stillness was absolute, unbroken by any sound, and the solitude complete, we thought ourselves beyond the regions of animated life; but while we were sitting on the rocks a solitary bee came winging its flight from the eastern valley and lit on the knee of one of the men. We pleased ourselves with the idea that he was the first of his species to cross the mountain barrier, a solitary pioneer to foretell the advance of civilization.”

Gregg, in his “ Commerce of the Prairies,” page 178, Vol. 1, says: ‘ The honey bee appears to have emigrated exclusively from the east, as its march has been observed westward. The bee, among Western pioneers, is the proverbial precursor of the Anglo-American population. In fact, the aborigines of the frontier have generally corroborated this statement, for they used to say that they knew the white man was not far behind when the bees appeared among them.” There were other recreations, such as shooting matches and quilting parties, which prevailed in those days, and which were enjoyed to the fullest extent. The quilting parties were especially pleasant and agreeable to those who attended. The established rule in those days at these parties was to pay either one dollar in money or split one hundred rails during the course of the day. The men would generally split the rails, and the women would remain in the house and do the quilting. After the day’s work was done the night would be passed in dancing.

All the swains that there abide With jigs and rural dance resort. When daylight came the music and dancing would cease, and the gallant young men would escort the fair ladies to their respective homes.


One of the oldest pioneers tells us that for several years after he came to what is now known as Monroe county the wolves were very numerous, and that he paid his taxes for many years in wolf scalps. His cabin was at the edge of the timber that skirted Elk Fork creek, and at night the howls of these animals were so loud and incessant that to sleep at times was almost impossible. Often at midnight, all

“ At once there rose so wild a yell,

Within that dark and narrow dell,

As all the fiends from heaven that fell,

Had pealed the banner cry of hell.”

At such times the whole air seemed to be filled with the vibrations of their most infernal and diabolical music. The wolf was not only a midnight prowler here, but was seen in the day-time, singly or in packs, warily skulking upon the outskirts of a thicket, or sallying cautiously along the open path with a sneaking look of mingled cowardice and cruelty.